There is ‘no doubt’ that support for the US-led war on Iraq ‘puts the UK more at risk’ of terrorist attack.
This is one of the main conclusions of a report published yesterday by the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and the Social Research Council.
The report, Security, Terrorism and the UK, stated: ‘There is no doubt that the situation over Iraq has imposed particular difficulties for the UK, and for the wider coalition against terrorism.
‘It gave a boost to the Al-Qaeda networks, propaganda, recruitment and fundraising, caused a major split in the coalition, provided an ideal targeting and training area for Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists, and deflected resources and assistance that could have been deployed to assist the Karzai government (in Afghanistan) and to bring (Al-Qaeda leader Osama) bin Laden to justice.’
The report added: ‘A key problem with regard to implementing the strategy against terrorism is that the UK government has been conducting counter-terrorism policy shoulder to shoulder with the US, not in the sense of being an equal decision-maker, but rather as pillion passenger compelled to leave the steering to the ally in the driving seat.’
Britain, it claimed, was ‘at particular risk because it is the closest ally of the United States, has deployed armed forces in the military campaigns to topple the Taleban regime in Afghanistan and in Iraq.’
It added that Britain’s ‘international intelligence, police and judicial co-operation’ in operations against al-Qaeda had also put it at risk.
The report noted that British security services had for a long time been preoccupied almost exclusively by the North of Ireland conflict, especially the campaign of attacks by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The report said: ‘By the mid-1990s the UKs intelligence agencies and the police were well aware that London was increasingly being used as a base by individuals involved in promoting, funding and planning terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere.
‘However, these individuals were not viewed as a threat to the UK’s national security, and so they were left to continue their activities with relative impunity, a policy which caused much anger among the foreign governments concerned.
‘As a result of giving lower priority to international terrorism, the British authorities did not fully appreciate the threat from Al-Qaeda.’
Anti-war MP George Galloway welcomed the report.
He told News Line yesterday: ‘I spoke out in parliament on July 7th after Blair and Bush claimed the London bombs were nothing to do with the war on Iraq.
‘I pointed out the exact opposite was true, and I was villified by New Labour stooges for doing so.
‘Now the Royal Institute of International Affairs and other leading bodies are backing the position that I have, which is also the view of the majority of the British people.
‘There has to be a drastic review of the policy which has led to this disaster.
‘That must start with the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq and uncoupling us from Bush’s disastrous war on terror.’
However, the Chatham House report gives succour to plans for new anti-terror laws by saying: ‘In an open society, such as the UK, it is notoriously difficult to prevent no-warning co-ordinated suicide attacks, the characteristic modus operandi of Al-Qaeda.’
Home Secretary Charles Clarke met his opposite numbers from the Tory and Liberal Democrat parties, David Davis and Mark Oaten in preparation for bringing in a new round of draconian anti-terror laws.
These are measures to outlaw ‘indirect incitement to terrorism’, ‘acts preparatory to terrorism’ and ‘receiving or giving training’ in terror techniques in the UK and abroad.